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John F. Kennedy Administration: Report on Johnson-Peres Meeting

(April 4, 1963)

This is a telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel reporting the Johnson-Peres meeting and exchanging view on the Near East.

1. There are major changes afoot which affect Near East area and Israel. Primary among these are recent setbacks to Soviets and corresponding improvement in US position in area; Arab unity moves which show Nasserism still popular but far from all-pervasive; breakup of simplified Monrovia-vs-Casablanca groupings in Africa with attendant emergence of conflicting Pan-African and Pan-Islamic tendencies which Nasser will try exploit; "augmentation of military hardware" in Near East where Nasser already has or is acquiring air-to-air, ship-to-shore, ground-to-air, and ground-to-ground missile capacities which add to his self-confidence and against which countermeasures lacking.

2. One change which not inimical Israel's interest is increased US influence and prestige.

3. Israel sees this as ideal time for USG to use this newly-increased influence to oppose "Arab belligerency", i.e., to make it clear that transgressions of the Arab-Israel territorial status quo would be directly countered by US military strength. Every effort should be made bring about direct Israel-UAR negotiations, which are prerequisite of any area peace. In such moves, USG would find Israel a "willing partner" as Israel has no ambitions running counter present territorial status quo. USG "too reluctant" in pushing Nasser in this direction. He needs US more than vice versa and US influence now at all-time high. Situation may not be so propitious five years hence.

4. In immediate terms, Israel would like see US efforts bent toward maintenance of status quo in Jordan and reforms within House of Saud. US aid should not be so focused on Nasser.

5. In long run, overthrow of Hussein and Saud-Faisal unavoidable. Former is courageous and generally acts wisely. However, he has too many senior officers plotting against him. Israel doing what it can prolong his tenure, with what it regards as useful effect on Nasser, by including overthrow in Jordan among three situations it has publicly proclaimed might be regarded as causes for unilateral Israel action (other two being interference re Aqaba transit and Jordan waters). USG can help by continuing assist Hussein identify his enemies and encourage his measures popularize himself. This regard, appointment of Prime Minister Samir Rifai has already improved Hussein's popular image somewhat.

6. GOI has "definite information" UAR used gas as weapon in Yemen.

In course of conversation Deputy Under Secretary Johnson:

1. Doubted UAR missile development will have much military significance for considerable time to come.

2. Said USG deeply opposed introduction of nuclear weapons capability in area.

3. Said USG considers it important work for strengthened UNTSO operation. (Peres replied Israel has almost built-in resistance to UNTSO operations and cannot agree there anything UNTSO does which US could not do better by direct exercise of "good offices".)



Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.